Last month I wrote about the new LDS ad campaign tailored to convince people that Mormons are just normal folk. The 30-second commercials continue to flood the airwaves in nine test cities across America. Longer versions of these “I’m [fill in the blank with a name], and I’m a Mormon” videos are found on You Tube and on the LDS website, mormon.org. The LDS advertising blitz is getting plenty of attention from the media as everybody tries to understand what the LDS Church hopes to accomplish with these ads.
What’s getting far less attention is a similar campaign sponsored by the Church of Scientology. Pre-dating the LDS ads by almost a year, You Tube, and the Church of Scientology website, offer somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 “I’m [fill in the blank with a name], and I’m a Scientologist” ads.
The Scientology ads feature folks from all sorts of walks of life such as a skydiver, a soccer player, a mother and illustrator, a fashion designer, a father, a dentist, a wife and mother, a skateboarder, etc. They are remarkably similar to the LDS ads. Perhaps both churches used the same advertising firm — I don’t know. Compare (for example) the two ads featuring skateboarders. Aron is a Scientologist; Josh is a Mormon.
Scott Swofford, director of media for the LDS Church’s Missionary Department, said in an LDS Press Release, “The goal here is for people to understand that any institution, any collection of people, is really just a manifestation of the beliefs of its members. It’s not so much what we believe but what we do because we believe that makes Mormons interesting.”
By watching these ads, then, one might come to the conclusion that Mormons and Scientologists believe the same things. Indeed, an investigator might think choosing between the two churches is merely a matter of whether one prefers being in the company of Gladys Knight or John Travolta. But, of course, this would be a tragic mistake.
What both ad campaigns seem to be striving for is to make their respective organizations appealing and “normal” to a population that views them with caution and some suspicion. Both Mormonism and Scientology want non-members to “identify” with members and become comfortable with their churches. The apparent strategy involves putting on ordinary, cozy clothing, slipping into an empty chair at the dinner table, and charming all in attendance with smooth words and flattering speech.
Now, where have I heard that before?
(See Matthew 7:15; Jude 12; Romans 16:18)
If you have five minutes, check out this video. Though in some ways similar to those above, it conveys a completely different message and focus. This is Jason Castro, and he is second.